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Tech Take-Apart
by kp

The popularity of VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) has gained momentum in the past year due the introduction of new VoIP compatible devices and services. What is VoIP and what are its advantages for the typical home user? VoIP is a technology standard that allows you to make phone calls utilizing an Internet connection. This works by digitizing a phone signal and transferring the data over the Internet with a broadband connection. By using the Internet, you can make long distance phone calls – with some limitations. Here are some points to keep in mind before throwing your analog phone out the window:

- Internet connection
VoIP operates best using a broadband connection which can be a cable modem, DSL or LAN. It is possible to use VoIP with a dial-up 56k modem, but your connectivity will be limited or stalled.

- Compatibility
Depending on your VoIP service provider, your calls may be limited to other VoIP users. One way to use VoIP with your analog phone is to install an ATA (Analog Telephone Adapter) to plug your phone into your Internet router. The adapter converts the analog signal to digital data, so that the phone can operate over the Internet. Another option is to purchase an IP phone that has a built-in ethernet port that is ready to connect to the Internet.

- Cost
You can make calls through your computer by downloading free VoIP software. Some VoIP services limit calls to VoIP subscribers only, so check the service provider's terms. Plus, you will need speakers and a microphone to receive calls if you don't already have them.

- Security
Because VoIP operates over an Internet connection, it is vulnerable to the same security risks as transmitting any data over a network. To help protect your computer, keep your security software updated.

How to get started:
If you are still geeked to use VoIP, you will need a few peripherals and software to get started. A crucial piece of equipment is a UPS to keep your system operational in the event of power outage. Unlike your local analog phone service, VoIP is dependent on a constant Internet connection from your house; your phone company provides back-up generators for emergency power.

Next, you'll need some type of input/output device for listening and talking. You can use an external microphone and speaker system or choose an all-in-one headset such as the Altec Lansing AHS202i Headset. There are also other options for receiving VoIP calls such as Hawking Tech's Net-Talk USB Internet Phone. This phone gives you mobile VoIP access with built-in VoIP messaging software functions.

Another peripheral that can aid in VoIP connection is IOGear's USB Calling Kit. This unit acts as a hub providing six USB 2.0 ports, two audio outputs and two MIC inputs. It also has a keypad with volume control and dial input.

The final piece for getting started with VoIP is the software. If you are a Mac user, you already have VoIP software built-in with iChat. This program offers multiple video conferencing as well as instant messaging features. For PC users, there are a number of third party options to choose from. One of the most popular is Skype which is PC, Mac and Linux compatible and has a number of compatible peripherals that fit with this program.

Shop Online:
All VoIP Products
IOGear USB VOIP Calling Kit
Hawking Tech Net-Talk USB Internet Phone
Altec Lansing AHS202i Over the Head Stereo Headset
External speakers
Security software
UPS Products

FCC (Federal Communications Commission) - www.fcc.gov/voip/

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